I was sitting in the Minneapolis airport Monday morning when a colleague from Lansing, MI, came over and said hello. Then I turned around and two other colleagues from a local Minneapolis CPA firm said hello, too. We were all on our way to the BDO Seidman Alliance Conference in Las Vegas, and it was fun to start my journey with so many familiar faces!
Then it struck me, you really can network anywhere anytime! I already believe that to be true and have been saying – and practicing – this idea for years. Yet I teach networking to up-and-coming leaders across the country who typically respond to this message with crossed arms and lowered eyebrows. They are skeptical that you really can network at a ballgame, church, or community volunteer event. And more importantly, they resist “crossing the line” between personal time and relationships with professional time and relationships, feeling that it’s sleazy and “salesy” to do so.
However, there really aren’t “lines” in our lives and with my “have it all life,” I’ve learned the benefits of integrating the different aspects of it. The bottom line is that networking is all about developing relationships. And you can do that anywhere (and are already likely doing it)!
What’s the first question someone asks you just after meeting you? Yes, they most likely ask (or you ask), “What do you do for a living?” Then you may naturally engage in a conversation about the difference you make for your clients, which could spark questions or additional discussion. It would actually be weird not to engage in this dialogue because you’re worried about “crossing the line.”
I like what Tim Sanders says in his book, Love Is The Killer App, about being a leader by adding value to everyone you meet in one of three ways: sharing your knowledge, making introductions to your contacts in your network, and demonstrating compassion, care and concern. If we focus our attention on how we can help others by giving away our “intangibles,” then we can take our attention off “closing the next new client.” That will occur naturally as any great networker and business developer will tell you.
Networking is about building relationships, which requires asking questions and getting to know the other person. We never know in these simple conversations how we may be able to help someone else and they will remember it when we do! Then, when they (or someone they know) need something – a problem solved, a service provided, or an introduction to someone – they’ll contact you because they know that you are a resource and willing to help. That is the essence of networking and the value of building relationships.
And, yes, in addition to “networking” at the airport – and other places I frequent - I network in traditional ways, too. I had a blast with the buzz and energy at the networking event Monday night at the BDO Alliance Conference attended by nearly 1,000 people! I participate in regular AAA and AAM local chapter meetings in Minneapolis and frequent the not-so-new social networking occurring on LinkedIn and Twitter, too. But, I do enjoy, and look for, those not so obvious opportunities to network and build relationships with people by asking questions and getting to know them as I go through my week. I am currently sharing my network with a fellow bible study student in my women’s bible study group who is looking for her next accounting position. Opportunities abound if we just make ourselves available to them, be interested in others and ask questions to get related.
So, I’ll look forward to seeing you at the airport, on LinkedIn, or maybe at one of our upcoming speaking or training events (which you can check out to see if we’ll run into each other at www.convergencecoaching.com/speakingevents.htm - I’d love to say “Hello!”).
What are your favorite networking locations? What new location that you frequent will you now consider as a networking location and be sure to say “Hello!” to someone you meet and perhaps offer them one of your “intangibles?” Please post a comment and share your networking success stories - we’d love to hear from you!